This holiday season, the Humane Society of the United States is urging people to celebrate humanely—with gift-giving and festivities that make a difference for animals and the environment.

Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, said, “The holiday season is an ideal time to show your compassion for animals. When shopping for that perfect gift or hosting warm celebrations with family and friends, we can make so many choices that are good for animals, the environment and ourselves: Support fur-free retailers and designers, cosmetic companies that produce cruelty-free products and pet stores that feature animals from shelters and rescue animals rather than puppy mills and opt for plant-based foods and not the products of factory farms. These everyday choices have an outsized impact for countless animals and add a whole new level of kindness and charity to the holidays.”

Tips for humane gift buying:

  • Support retailers and designers that are fur-free: Consumer concern for animals is leading the fashion industry away from fur, likely saving millions of mink, rabbits, foxes and raccoon dogs from suffering and a cruel death for the sake of fashion. Before purchasing clothing or accessories, be sure to choose retailers and designers who pledged to go fur-free. This guide can help.
  • Be sure the fur is faux: While fur is becoming a thing of the past, it is important to read labels and be sure that any faux fur trim and accessories are truly faux. Always check the label and use these techniques to check the trim. If in doubt, do without. More information can be found at the HSUS’s humane shopping guide. 
  • Beauty without cruelty: Year after year, countless animals endure unnecessary, painful testing for cosmetics. There are many companies and brands around the world that sell luxurious, safe, on-trend products produced without any new animal testing. These companies are listed at Leaping Bunny. Always read labels to make sure you’ve made a cruelty-free choice.
  • Gifts for all kinds, that benefit all kinds: Looking to purchase treats, toys and other gifts for your favorite furry family members or friends? Stay away from stores where puppies and kittens are sold. Shop at stores that sell pet supplies only, or those that feature adoption opportunities for animals from local shelters, rescue organizations or animal nonprofits.
  • Adding to the family: Bringing a new pet home can be a wonderful experience any time of the year, including the holidays. Many local shelters and rescues have cats, dogs and other animals looking for a home and a local organization may be holding special adoption promotions to highlight pets in need. Even if you are not ready for a full-time companion, fostering a shelter or rescue pet over the holidays gives an animal a break from the shelter and reduces the workload for local shelter staff. If you decide to purchase from a breeder, beware of pet seller scams and never purchase a puppy or kitten from a website or pet store. Most puppies sold in pet stores come from puppy mills. If you do choose to buy a puppy from a breeder, remember that a responsible breeder will be proud to show you where the puppy and mother dog have been living, Stay away from a dealer who will not agree to this. The Humane Society of the United States offers materials to support new pet owners, including information on how to avoid a puppy mill when getting a dog, how to crate train and house-train your dog, how to get your dog to stop barking, expenses related to pets, how to create a stress-free environment for your cat and how to prepare for destructive scratching.

 Tips for humane celebrating:

  • Guests and pets: Though the excitement of a party may overwhelm some pets, keep your pets inside during extreme weather and provide plenty of safe toys to keep them busy. If needed, move your cat or dog to a quiet space or crate during holiday parties. If fostering a pet over the holidays, research shows that the best thing to do is allow them to find deep rest away from the commotion of friends and family. Inform visitors ahead of time that you have a pet and what the rules of engagement are.
  • Delicious options: Hosting someone who doesn’t eat meat? There are many wonderful plant-based recipes for the holiday feast that everyone at the table will enjoy.
  • Puppy eyes: While it may be hard to resist the look your dog gives when everyone is gathered at a table, food scraps can be dangerous and move your celebration to a veterinary emergency room. Food that should not be given to pets includes bones, gravies and sauces, chocolate, candy, citrus and coffee.
  • Indoor holiday sparkle: Safety around decorations is of vital importance. Make sure dogs and cats do not chew on limbs or droppings from fir or pine trees. The water base of a fir or pine tree contains dangerous chemicals that could harm your pet. Position tree lights and tinsel (which can be dangerous for cats if they ingest it) draping away from the bottom of the tree where pets can get to them. Don’t leave candles unattended. Pets may accidentally knock them over and spill wax or start a fire. Make sure that dogs who enjoy chewing steer clear of processed firewood products; these logs contain sawdust and paraffin which can cause an irritated stomach or even intestinal blockage when ingested. A number of seasonal plants are poisonous to pets if nibbled or eaten, including ivy, holly, mistletoe and poinsettias. Finally, Christmas trees are like playgrounds for cats. Secure yours so it doesn't topple over and use good judgment in choosing ornaments that may break or be otherwise dangerous when treated as cat toys.
  • Outdoor holiday sparkle: A fun and unique way to celebrate the holidays no matter what your climate may be is to create a humane backyard. A humane backyard gives wildlife in sunny or snowy places a safe environment to live free from pesticides, chemicals, free-roaming pets, inhumane practices (such as trapping) and other threats. It’s a natural habitat with plenty of food, water and cover and it doesn’t have to be a backyard. Consider turning community parks, corporate properties, places of worship and apartment balconies into havens for wildlife, people and pets. Cultivating a humane backyard can be as simple as reducing your turf grass lawn, instead letting a variety of native plants flourish—and enjoying all the fauna who use them for food, nesting materials and shelter.
  • Celebrate in style, not in fear: On New Year’s Eve, many people enjoy the booming sounds and flashing lights of fireworks which can be terrifying and hazardous for pets and wildlife. Keep pets safe from firework stress by keeping them indoors or leashed at all times and be sure they are wearing collars and ID tags.
  • Wrap it up safely: Be careful when gift wrapping. Ribbon and bows can look like toys to pets, but if ingested, can cause harm to animals’ mouths, throats and intestines. Bubble wrap and other gift box stuffing materials can also be harmful when ingested.
  • Hit the road humanely: Carefully consider whether it’s the right choice to take your pet on a trip. If pets are more comfortable staying at home, ask a pet sitter to keep their routines as consistent as possible. Wherever they spend the holidays, dogs and cats should have collars and ID tags that provide a way to reach you quickly. A good tip for cats is to have a tag that indicates if they are indoor-only cats and not a community cat who is allowed to roam.

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